Our guest: Carey Sookocheff is an award-winning illustrator whose first picture book –the phenomenal Buddy and Earl (read our review HERE), written by Maureen Fergus– was just released by Groundwood Books. She lives in Toronto.
The Proust-Esque Questionnaire is based on a set of 36 standardized questions designed by Marcel Proust in the 1890’s to give an overview of the respondent’s personality. Our goals are less lofty, but hopefully will provide some insight into how your favorite authors and illustrators work and what they love.
Books were always a huge part of my life growing up. My mom was a librarian so we always had a lot of books around. I think my earliest memory though is reading Green Eggs and Ham. It was the first book I ever read on my own. The next morning my dad made green eggs and ham for breakfast. It was such a great way to celebrate that little milestone.
My mom gave me the book Miss Rumphius a long time ago and said that it reminded her of me. I didn’t get it at first. I’m not much of a gardener! Then I realized what she meant. I’m not out to save the world, but I am trying in small ways to make the world more beautiful.
3. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR? ILLUSTRATOR?
It’s too hard to pick favourites, but I love Maurice Sendak, Carson Ellis, Jon Klassen (right), Oliver Jeffers (right), John Burningham, to name a few.
4. IF YOU WERE THROWING A KINDERLIT PARTY FOR FIVE GUESTS, WHO WOULD YOU INVITE?
I would have to invite the whole crowd of animals from Mr. Gumpy’s Outing by John Burningham. I read that book endlessly to my youngest daughter. It would be lovely to have all those animals dry out in the nice warm sun and then all have tea together.
5. WHICH QUALITY DO YOU THINK IS MOST IMPORTANT IN GOOD CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?
Humour. Not necessarily laugh out loud silly humour, but just not taking oneself too seriously kind of humour.
6. IF YOUR OWN WORK HAS A DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC, WHAT WHAT IS IT?
Simplicity. I try to keep things simple with both shape and line so that the ideas can stand out.
7. IF YOU WERE TO DIE AND COME BACK AS A CHARACTER FROM CHILDREN’S LITERATURE, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BE?
Since Buddy and Earl is my first book and it has barely hit the shelves I don’t have much perspective on this question yet. Ask me in another year once I’m older and wiser and have had a chance to get over the excitement of it all!
9. WHAT IS THE GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
Be kind. It works in most situations.
10. DESCRIBE YOUR WORK PROCESS.
I spend a lot of time sketching and coming up with ideas. I really find the beginning stage is the hardest part. It’s where you lay the groundwork and it deserves the most attention and time as far as I’m concerned. I try to come up with as many ideas as possible. I often play around with lots of different approaches before I find the one that works. And sometimes the best idea is the first one, but at least I know I’ve explored all the options. Once I have the ideas then I start fine tuning the drawing. I try to find how I can best convey the idea or the image. Then I finally move on to painting. I paint the background and the line work separately and them assemble them together in Photoshop. I hope one day to do them together on the same paper, but doing them apart allows me indecision. I can change my mind and alter things more easily if they are done separately.
I can’t say I have one favourite. Every year I add to my collection and I love them all. A Hole is to Dig by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Maurice Sendak is one I loved as a kid. I love how the illustrations tell a story beyond the text. It’s a simple beautiful book that makes you think. Extra Yarn by Marc Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen is a more recent favourite. It is just perfect story with perfect illustrations.
12. TELL US ABOUT A BOOK THAT YOU LOVE THAT, FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER, HAS NOT FOUND A WIDER AUDIENCE.
I think there are lots of really great books that don’t get the recognition they deserve. I think children’s poetry often falls into that category. I have a book called Be a Baby by Sarah Withrow and Manuel Monroy that my older daughter loved. It came into our lives at just the right time and was read nightly for months. I think I still have the poem memorized.